by Andrew Foster
In the last few months I’ve come across some interesting ideas for exploring the Common Core State Standards. The most effective professional development is teacher-led and teacher-focused. Whether you are a classroom teacher doing your own research, a team leader organizing CCSS introductory activities, or an administrator trying to get your staff to begin thinking and talking about CCSS, here are a few suggestions for engaging in individual or interactive research of the standards and the development of Mathematics across the grade levels.
- Standards Highlight. This could be done individually or with a small group. I used this strategy myself and worked out some of the kinks, I think. You will need at least three highlighters (or pens) of different colors. The idea is to break the standards down further than their original structure to make them even more understandable. You will not worry about highlighting the strand information, but drill straight down to the performance standards. Use your first color to note significant vocabulary that is general, or defines the big idea. Use your second color to identify words or concepts that are specific. Use your third color to highlight exercise examples or classroom instruction ideas that are contained in the text of the standards. Here is an example where yellow is general, orange is specific, and green is classroom level.
- READ the Standards. There are several ways to do this that will be less monotonous than a marathon reading of the entire CCSS. Pick a math strand (such as Numbers and Operations) and read only one grade level each day, focusing only on the chosen strand. Or read the Math standards for one grade level and study it until you understand it before moving on to the next grade level. Don’t forget the helpful Math CCSS Glossary!
- Download a Phone Application. Yes, there is an app for that! The application is simple – it is the standards, nothing more – but serves as a handy reference anytime, anywhere. Someone claims that the CCSS require study of volume in 4th grade? Check the standards on your phone app! They are organized by grade, strand, and benchmark for easy searching. The app is available for Apple and Android systems.
- Card Sort Activity. This was one of the most eye-opening professional development activities I have ever participated in. You will need to have each grade level standard from a single Math strand printed on small squares of paper or written on note cards without any identification about which grade level it represents. In pairs or small groups, sort the performance standards according to assumed order. Get ready for disagreements! You will easily identify the first few grade levels by the relative simplicity of the standard, but it soon becomes more difficult. After everyone has completed their card sort, tape the standards in a long strip and hang them so you can begin to compare the ordering completed by each group. Finally, get out the standards and check your work. Great discussion will result as well as some real “Aha!” moments about concept development across the grade levels.
- Instruction Focus/Divide and Conquer. In a grade level team, choose one strand and assign each member a different performance standard. The goal is for that person to report back to the team with a deeper understanding of the standard and a collection of possible instructional resources that would be helpful in teaching the standard to mastery. Alternately, the whole group could focus on one standard and each member could research different curricular or instructional resources such as multimedia, project learning, hands-on materials, or classwork/homework activities.
- Single Standard Brainstorm. In a group setting, select a single standard to post on chart paper or whiteboard. Distribute chart paper and markers to small groups of four members or less. Ask each group to create a visual aid that represents the selected performance standard as completely as possible. The poster might include a translation of the standard in other words, related vocabulary, example problems, diagrams, number sentences, etc. It is interesting to see each group take a slightly different approach. You can extend this by posting the charts around the room and having a “walk-through”. Each member or group takes 3 minutes at each chart, noting the nuance of different representations and adding sticky notes with questions or comments.
Have you seen or experienced other great ideas for exploring the Standards? I want to hear about it! Leave a comment or drop me a line on Twitter @abfosEd.